Saturday, June 28, 2014

Birthday Dinner @ Cavalli‏

After many months, and some bad press along the way... we made our way back
to an old haunt, Ristorante Cavalli. Being my mom's birthday and her favorite
restaurant… it was inevitable. So a little after 7:00, my dear mom, my sister
and I made our way back to that familiar, expansive entryway to the Food Porn
There are definitely changes to the decor... more on that in the coming
month... but the first thing you notice… no more famous 'Pink bar', but
replaced by a more subdued version…. all dressed down and welcoming:
a perfect place to come in from the sweltering summer heat.
I was greeted like no time had passed (smiling) and MY regular, round table
was still in the same spot. In a matter of moments... I was sipping my glass
of Cabernet Sauvignon... and began to look at the updated menu. An added bonus…
the personnel was very similar... including executive chef Frank Gioffre...
who assured me I would sample a plethora of new appetizers.

And the dance of culinary delights began… a 'Beef tartar' with tomato,
olives, capers, shallot accompanied by zucchini fries. Light golden, slightly
battered, and oh so delicious. Then it was the always tangy 'Tuna sashimi'
with celery leaves, green olives, shallot, and spicy lemon and mayo capers.
Followed by a dish my sister raved about, 'Burrata and heirloom tomatoes
caprese' with figs, arugula, prosciutto crudo di Parma and grilled pine nut
focaccia... because she recently returned from a week in Paris where she
enjoyed that very dish at several bistros in the arrondissement where she

The rest of the meal continued in the same manner: technically assured
cooking that typifies the simplicity of the Italian kitchen... like a main
course of 'Rack of lamb' with split pea puree, roasted carrots, sauteed
escarole, grilled banana pepper and feta salsa. Or the inspired 'Chilean
sea bass' on a bed of crab, cucumber and avocado salad, sticky rice, with
a Wasabi Tobiko Ginger/Coriander Emulsion. It was like sex on a plate!

'They say the measure of a great restaurant is in the consistency of
its dishes.' ~ ©Frank Borsellino

* From Where I Sit!
June 27, 2014

* Ristorante Cavalli
2042 Peel St.
Montreal, H3A 2R4
(514) 843-5100

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sweet Tooth @ Rosalie Observations

I sometimes get invited to events that are a feather above my line of aptitude... but I go
because we must delve into newer experiences and venture outside our comfort zone as often
as we can. I have lived by that doctrine my whole life... good or bad!

'Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.' ~ André Gide

Recently, through a friend... we'll call her 'The Emissary', I attended such an event...
an educational program with Robert Beauchemin, professor of Anthropology at LaSalle College,
and one of the only food anthropologists in Canada. He was a food critic at La Presse for
24 years and he is in fact one of Quebec's only Olive Oil experts recognized by Unaprol,
who sponsored the event. The benefactor of our afternoon, the new Bistro Rosalie, I say
new because, to my surprise, there was a changing of the guard some time in the fall of
2013...but I digress.
They delighted us with a smorgasbord of all things virgin to our palettes. I asked my
old friend, Virginia Wolfe, to be my plus one for this 'Extra Virgin Olive Oil' extravaganza.
I like her company, she's very intelligent, worldly and this is 'right in her wheelhouse'.

The welcome cocktail was called 'Sgroppino al Limone'... was a good Prosecco served with
two small balls of olive oil and lemon Granita….an absolutely delightful and refreshing
drink from Venice. Some of those wonderful hors d'oeuvre including Israeli couscous Pilaf
with apricots... large pearls of couscous sautéed with olive oil and flavored with dried
apricots. Grilled smokey corn toss... and a Crab and avocado salad tossed with sweet and
tangy passion fruit vinaigrette.
But the 'Raison d'être' of this gathering was an education in 'Extra Virgin Olive Oil'...
and so we got comfortable and Mr. Beauchemin began to enlighten us. To Virginia and myself
it was a very learned way to spend several hours... like being in a high-end Home Ec class.
Let us first get this out of the way... I don't know about you but I always wondered why
the term 'Virgin'... it means mechanically produced without chemical treatment.

What he professed very strongly about was reading labels, if there is no info on labels
it's probably a mixed product of olive oils. Not a good choice... best to discard. A good
quality producer will have an Expiration date on label and will have a Yellow and Blue label
with a harp, stars of the EU (European Union). Shelf life is from 18 to 24 months. Diminished
if exposed to light, oxygen and/or heat. Optimum climate and soil in regions will be
distinguished with a DOP, AOC or DOC on the olive oil bottle.
Xtra Virgin olive oil flavor peaks first two months of production. Olive harvest is in
late November early December and they must be treated within 15 to 20 hours from picking,
otherwise olives will oxidize. The best flavour is the first month from opening the bottle
and flavour diminishes after 2 years of shelf life; olive oil loses its bitterness and
taste, and the average life of an olive tree goes from 300 to 600 years.
Basically, olive oil doesn't age, but loses its quality. High quality extra virgin olive
oil should not be more expensive than $20/litre max and should be a product of Italy...
which exports most of their olive oil to USA... more than its produces. Xtra Virgin olive
oil should be stored in a cool, dark place. Never refrigerate, because it'll become cloudy
and crystallize... rancid oil from oxidation is poison
The largest producers are Italy with 7000 types of olives. 450 types of olives selected
for variety of mixes and flavour. Produces 500 to 600 thousand tonnes per year. The next
closest country is Spain with 15 types of olives. Greece falls in number three with one
hundred thousand tonnes per year and it produces a poorer and cheaper quality product at
a more expensive price at $25/litre. France is very low in the scale of production with
only 5000 tonnes per year.

Here are a few points he wanted us to take note so I will dictate numerically:
* 11 lbs of olives pressed = 1 Quart (32oz) of extra virgin olive oil
* one tablespoon of olive oil = 120 calories, 14 grams of fat, and no cholesterol
* substitute extra virgin olive oil for butter in baked goods, they will have a longer
shelf life due to vitamin E and Polyphenals in olive oil

The time flew by in a nanosecond and as we ventured to the beautiful terrace I was
glad to have made a new friend in a wonderful lady, Ms. Imbeault hopefully will be
a joyous and delicious addition to my soirées... if I promise to be good!

* From Where I Sit!
April 5, 2014

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Jewel on Peel

Last night, a friend and myself, by happenstance, ventured into the most
wonderful little bistro. You have two options at this quaint little jewel on
Peel Street… your first choice is a salad with Walnuts, and steak w/French
fries (they call them 'Pommes allumettes'). For option number two you get
the soup of the day or tomato juice, salad w/Walnuts, steak w/French fries,
and for dessert, Profiteroles au chocolat'.

The environment was serene... beautiful, classic bistro decor, of which
I am a somewhat an aficionado / connoisseur. We began with the traditional
Baguette bread basket w/butter (a traditional bistro signature), accompanied
by a 'Domaine Tour de Pech Merlot Cabernet, 2012, Château Pech-Céleyran
(private import). It was a subtle blend offering flexibility and red berries
associated with Merlot Cabernet material… an elegant and silky wine. The
first course… a fresh Boston salad seduced us and it was all top-notch from
that moment forth. The Strip loin steak was seasoned just right and perfectly
grilled topped with a world class sauce... which we devoured (both not being
big red meat eaters) with such ease and rapidity. We forgo of the soup because
of the heat…. and the dessert was a sin.

The first restaurant opened in November 1983 in old Quebec on the street
'St-Jean', hence the origin of its name. The founder Mr. Reverberi grew up
in France, where he was inspired by the restaurant concept which already
existed in the streets of Paris and Geneva... eventually established in the
heart of Montreal in March of 1991. Today, L'Entrecote Saint-Jean continues
to maintain the quality standards to which has benefited their reputation
as an institution... where it has upheld a high popularity amongst the
amateurs of the French bistro restaurants.

* From Where I Sit!
June 2, 2014

* Bistro L'Entrecote Saint-Jean
2022, rue Peel,
Montreal. H3A 2W5
(514) 281-6492

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Confirmation @ Le Crystal‏

'I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk
in darkness, but have the light of life.' ~ John 8:12

Confirmation is one of the seven sacraments through which
Catholics pass in the process of their religious upbringing.
According to Catholic doctrine, in this sacrament they are
sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and are strengthened
in their Christian life. My nephew Anthony begun his journey
on Saturday.... and a small, intimate gathering of family
and friends celebrated @ Le Crystal.

The culinary offerings were exquisite, delicious and
mouth-watering. The wine choices were superb and the meat
sizzled to perfection... all with a touch of excellence and
white glove service.
One of life's greatest joys is the opportunity to be able
to celebrate our happiness surrounded by those we hold
dear... and make memories we will cherish forever.' ~ ©Frank Borsellino

* From Where I Sit!
May 31, 2014

* Le Crystal Reception Halls
5285 Henri Bourassa Blvd. W.
Ville Saint-Laurent, H4R 1B7